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Rep. Barbara Lee Will Seek California U.S. Senate Seat, Sources Say

Barbara Lee
Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Lee, a longtime LGBTQ+ ally, is expected to seek the seat currently held by Dianne Feinstein. 

The field of 2024 candidates for U.S. senator from California is growing.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents the state's 12th Congressional District, located in the Bay Area, has told some colleagues she plans to go for the Senate seat, Politico reports. Her mention came in a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus that was not open to the media, sources told Politico.

This comes just a day after another California congresswoman, Katie Porter of Orange County, formally announced her candidacy. Both she and Lee are Democrats.

The seat that's up for election in 2024 is currently held by Democrat Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco, who at 89 is the oldest serving senator, a few months older than Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who was just reelected. Grassley is the senator who has served the longest in the chamber now that Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont has retired. Feinstein is third, after Grassley and Republican Mitch McConnell.

Feinstein, who's remembered in the LGBTQ+ community for leading San Francisco as mayor after the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978, has faced questions about her ability to continue serving in the Senate. A younger candidate, Kevin de Leon, challenged her in 2018 but failed to unseat her. Also, while mostly liberal (and a lead sponsor of the recently passed Respect for Marriage Act), Feinstein has sometimes been criticized by progressives as too centrist.

Lee spoke to Politico briefly Wednesday and said it wasn't the time to announce any Senate plan and that she would do so when appropriate. She declined to say whether she'd run against Feinstein if the latter seeks another term. Feinstein hasn't said what she intends to do.

"I'm not really doing anything except letting colleagues know that there'll be a time to talk about the Senate race," Lee told the publication. Lee, a member of Congress since 1998, is a strong LGBTQ+ ally, and so is Porter, who is beginning her third term.

Adam Schiff, a Democratic congressman from Southern California, has dropped hints that he'll seek the Senate seat as well. He is likewise an ally, as almost senator elected from the state would be. Under California's system, the top two candidates in the primary advance to the general election, regardless of party, so the seat will almost assuredly stay in Democratic hands.

California's other U.S. senator, Democrat Alex Padilla, was appointed in 2021 to finish the term of Kamala Harris when she became vice president. In November, he was elected to a full term, and he'll be up for election next in 2028.

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